Mehmet Deniz, a Turkish cleric committed suicide on 1 July in his home in Balıkesir, a western city of Turkey, after allegedly being subjected to mobbing due to his ‘humble’ and unconventional lifestyle.
Father of five, cleric Deniz had been facing not only criticism and workplace harassment due to practices such as cycling to work, riding a motorcycle, and not wearing traditional clerical attire, but was also under investigation by the Presidency of Religious Affairs (Diyanet).
The investigation into Deniz’s lifestyle choices led to his removal from his position as a cleric. In response, Deniz appealed to the Balıkesir Administrative Court, which overturned the decision to remove him from his position. However, the Diyanet did not implement the court’s decision, leading Deniz to take his case to the Constitutional Court.
Deniz left a suicide note detailing these experiences. This letter is currently being examined as part of an investigation by the prosecutor’s office.
The general president of Turkey’s Religious Workers’ Union (Adil-Sen), Ahmet Murat Hocaoğlu, commented on the situation:
“He faced a lot of injustice. He fought against it. We lost this person due to injustice. Why does a cleric commit suicide? I am addressing the Diyanet and the general directors. We do not want such a meritless process. Let the powerful not win. Do not allow this. Did Mehmet Deniz receive this punishment because he lived this way? Don’t you have a hand in this person’s death? Put your hand on your conscience. Five children have been orphaned. Unfortunately, Mehmet Deniz took his own life due to the unjust process in the Diyanet. Many people have experienced or are experiencing what Mehmet Deniz went through. The powerful ones return to their duties.”
Zeynep Deniz, the wife of the late cleric, also spoke out, saying, “He lived with honour all his life. Why did they punish such a person? He ended his life because he couldn’t stand all that happened. Who will we hold accountable for this? Who will give an account to me, to his children? You are responsible, [the head of Diyanet] Ali Erbaş. Who will interfere with these court decisions?”